Many of us have fond childhood memories of spending summer evenings catching lightning bugs! But did you know that they are not all the same? In fact, here in North America, there are three main families of flashing fireflies--Photinus, Pyractomena, and Photuris. You can observe the flash patterns of the lights to tell them apart! This flashing, which gives the beetle its common name of firefly, is a chemical reaction in their abdomen. Specific blinking patterns are a way for the insects to communicate, and each type has its own kind of "language".
If you enjoy watching fireflies, then put your observations to work and become a firefly watcher as part of the citizen science project Firefly Watch. Spend 10 mins a week watching firefly activity in a location of your choice and submit your findings. You will provide details about the habitat and then count the number of flashing fireflies you see over the course of 10 minutes in three 10 second periods, as well as the number of flashing patterns.
Ready to get involved? Go to
Happy firefly watching!